Chris Lewis

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Chris Lewis Posted: Dec 21, 2005 0 comments
Quality drivers in quality cabinets equals quality sound—at a nice price.

It's easy to find your eyes dazzled, and your mind befuddled, by the outpouring of new speakers over the last few years, particularly those of the nontraditional variety. In-walls, plasma-friendly speakers, and even flat-panel speakers are all the rage with the general public. This is hardly a bad thing—anything that can get people to recognize that the speaker realm extends far beyond the two-dollar paper drivers in their televisions serves a valuable purpose. Many of these people may also come to realize that, at this point, most of these recent unconventional designs embody some degree of compromise, and they hopefully won't fall victim to the dreaded anything-that-is-new-is-better philosophy. It is true that manufacturers are getting more out of unconventional designs than ever before. But, generally speaking, the best speaker sound still comes out of old-fashioned cone drivers and dome tweeters in cabinets with the proper interior and exterior qualities, along with the proper space for them to do their work.

Chris Lewis Posted: Dec 12, 2005 0 comments
This time, it's all English.

After the parade of international system mates that we've had in every other installment of this column recently, we finally settle into a system whose parts share their nation of origin. Don't be too quick to assume that it is the United States or Japan I speak of—this month's system hails entirely from merry old England. This isn't terribly surprising, but it does give me an opportunity to say a few things to our friends across the pond that I've been meaning to say for a while, such as: Sorry about that whole revolution thing (although I don't really mean that sincerely), and thanks for the Rolling Stones, Lord Stanley (who gave us the Stanley Cup), and Elizabeth Hurley—in no particular order, of course.

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Chris Lewis Posted: Nov 22, 2005 0 comments
It will do everything but cook you dinner.

Unless you've been in a cave for the last decade, you already know that audio is rapidly steamrolling toward multichannel forms. Evidence is abundant on both the software and hardware fronts. These days, you'll be hard-pressed to find a modern movie in stereo on any medium outside of television. Music probably has years to go before its stereo form becomes esoteric, but the writing may be on the wall. As for hardware, try finding any electronics that don't support some multichannel form or another—if not several—anywhere but the smallest specialty shelves. Whether stereophiles like it or not, multichannel is as embedded in audio's future as digital coding itself.

Chris Lewis Posted: Nov 17, 2005 0 comments
A fresh look at form and function.

One thing you can't say about speaker designers and manufacturers is that they haven't been busy over the last 10 to 15 years making drastic changes to the standard speaker form. There may have never been another period like it in the annals of speakerdom. What you can debate, however, is what the driving force for all of this change has been. It strikes me that a good portion of it has been aesthetically and ergonomically motivated, and far less of it has been geared toward making speakers sound better. Now don't get me wrong—I'm not here to trash flat panels, in-walls, wireless speakers, or anything else. Some of these designs can sound very good, despite their inherent compromises, and they are getting better as they mature. They all have their purposes, and many of them have well served people who may not otherwise be interested in speakers outside of those in their televisions, or those folks who aren't willing to give up floor space to accommodate speakers. But special congratulations must be given to those speaker makers who, either through new technologies and designs or not, are actively trying to improve the sound quality of such designs. This quest is as important now as it has ever been.

Chris Lewis Posted: Nov 17, 2005 0 comments
A new page—or is it the first page—in the annals of Japanese-Danish collaboration.

It's a true testament to the international character of home theater, circa 2005, that so many of our Spotlight Systems include equipment from different countries—which usually provides a convenient opening angle in the process. Some of these worldly connections have been easier to make than others, and I already thought I was stretching things in our August 2005 issue by trying to come up with a compelling storyline for England and Japan. This time, I'm officially stumped. If you can come up with an introduction-worthy link between Japan and Denmark, then consider yourself truly educated in world affairs. I certainly like to imagine a band of Vikings and a band of Samurai trading blows on the battlefield, but, somehow, I don't think that ever happened. It's possible that these two countries squared off on a soccer field at some point, but I'd be the last person to know about that. Maybe this is finally a sign that I should stay more focused on what we're all really here for anyway—what these countries do when they get together in the listening room. Point taken.

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Chris Lewis Posted: Oct 22, 2005 0 comments
Diamonds can be everyone's best friend.

If truth be told, I have little use for diamonds in their conventional form. This probably stems from all the pomp and pageantry that surrounds them—not to mention my disdain for those people who drape themselves in the stones and attempt to outshine everyone else with their brilliance. This hardly means that I have little respect for diamonds, though, even if this respect is far more about material than materialism. Since ancient times, mankind has recognized the value of the diamond for pragmatic applications, in everything from grinding and engraving tools, to drill bits, to turntable styli and semiconductors.

Chris Lewis Posted: Sep 30, 2005 0 comments
Power that will surely register on your Richter scale.

Earthquake is not a bad moniker to have attached to an amplifier that can crank out some 300 watts across each of its seven channels. That kind of power, with the right speakers in front of it, can certainly set your listening room to rolling and rumbling. The name also applies well to the minor seismic event that will result when you drop this 122-pound behemoth into your equipment rack—assuming that you have an equipment rack that can hold it. But, as endearing as weight and power are in an amplifier, they don't tell the whole story of an amplifier's potential. Finesse and athleticism are just as important in a big, bulky amplifier as they are in a big, bulky linebacker.

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Chris Lewis Posted: Sep 30, 2005 0 comments
Infinity comes through again.

When it comes to expectations, setting the bar high can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can't establish credibility or customer loyalty without coming through time and time again. On the other hand, the higher you set the bar, the easier it is to go down rather than up. Infinity quickly comes to my mind as one of the companies that isn't afraid of this challenge, whether it be with a $500 speaker or a $5,000 speaker. No reviewer can ever predict how tuned his ear will be to a particular set of speakers, or even a brand. However, with Infinity, you can count on getting a well-designed, well-built speaker from a company that has the right priorities in mind. Some speaker manufacturers get it, and some don't. Infinity is clearly one that does.

Chris Lewis Posted: Aug 30, 2005 Published: Aug 31, 2005 0 comments
Performance and value never go out of style.

My curiosity was naturally piqued a few years ago when I heard that Parasound was going upscale with their look. This was a company that had become virtually synonymous with performance plus value, facilitated somewhat by forgoing aesthetic flair, and I wondered where the decision to go uptown with the finish in the Halo line would lead. The first good sign was the Halos' higher price tags. It costs a lot more to make boxes look that good, and this told me that they weren't taking resources away from performance to do so. What ultimately satisfied my curiosity, though, was how good the Halo models sounded. Yet, there are still those who want Parasound performance, have less to spend, and don't mind—or maybe even appreciate—Parasound's rugged, utilitarian old style. The New Classic line is exactly what they're looking for.

Chris Lewis Posted: Aug 30, 2005 Published: Aug 31, 2005 0 comments
The international systems tour rolls on.

You may recall that I've usually tried to dip into the historical well when introducing the many international audio systems that we've reviewed lately. This at least spares you from yet another opening paragraph of worn-out exaggerations about paradigm shifts and in-your-face phrases like "in your face." I'm somewhat stumped here, though. The Japanese and English seem to have avoided pairing up, or squaring off (directly, at least), in any high-profile military conflicts. There have really been no economic or cultural wars between them. I can't even find a case where they've faced off in a major sporting event. But one place they have gotten together often is in the listening room—and I suppose that is what we're here for, after all.

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